A Prayer Filled with Reminders of God

Apparently, Alexander the Great wasn’t so great when it came to art.  An ancient historian (Claudius Aelianus) tells the story of Alexander viewing a painting done in his honor. The painting featured Alexander sitting on his favorite horse. It was a bold portrait done by a master named Apelles. And yet, Alexander was not overly impressed. It failed to move him, and he only gave it faint praise. The artist was not pleased. To prove the painting’s realism and value, he brought a horse into the atrium; and when it saw the paining, it neighed, believing that the horse on the canvas was real. “King,” said Apelles, “this horse seems to understand the painting much better than you.” I often feel like I have very little understanding and appreciation of prayer and that most of my prayers are, in reality, just horsing around. There is an art in praying, but

A Prayer with a Request

Milo of Croton was incredibly strong. He was a wrestler by profession and was well-celebrated by his Greek fans for his fearlessness, strength and his acumen in the ring. Outside the ring, however, he was not so bright.  One day in the 6th century BCE, Milo decided to go for a stroll in the forest. He was enjoying the fresh air and the solitude, but then he spotted something that just called his name. It was a tree, tall and strong. But this one was being split. At some point not too long ago, a lumberjack had tried to split the tree while it was still standing (I was taught that, first, you fell the tree, then you split the tree; but this lumberjack was trying to skip a step). But all this logger accomplished was to get his wedges buried deep in the tree. Yes, it was partly split,

A Prayer and an Address

Fireflies. I love them. I love seeing them light up in the dark as they flitter around in my backyard. But here’s some troubling news.  Fireflies are misnamed. No matter what we say, fireflies are not flies. They are beetles. But I promise you, even if fireflies did nothing different and were just as enlightening and sweet as they are now, but we had to call them firebeetles, I would hate them with a passion. And while we are at it, Koala bears are not bears; they are marsupials. Now, I don’t care if they misnamed the Koala because of marketing; it is misleading. I would suggest that we throw whoever is responsible for this misrepresentation to some grizzlies so he (or she) can know what a true bear looks like. And let’s talk desserts. I don’t care what they say. Boston cream pie is definitely a cake, and cheesecake

A Prayer for a Proper Diagnosis

Suppose you lived in the ancient world and were suffering from a toothache. With no local dentists nearby, you had to find another health-care solution (and even if there was another option, you don’t want to know what people were doing to bring relief to toothaches back then!). Enter the doctrine of “signatures”! When suffering from a particular ailment, it was thought that the solution would often look like the problem. That’s right, it was believed that God, in creating the world, gave us hints as to what curative effect each plant or herb had by shaping said plant so that it looked like the human organ it was made to heal. So, if you have a problem with your brain (and who doesn’t?) or needed a little brain boost before taking your SAT’s, the best thing you could eat is walnuts because the meat of the walnut looks like

A Prayer with All the Fixings

Let’s fix time. I’ve told you this story before; but I think it is a hoot, so, you get to hear it again. One day, Julius Caesar decided he had to fix the calendar. Before his time, all calendars were based on the lunar cycle. But the lunar calendar was 11 days shorter than a solar calendar. In an attempt to fix things, the time police mandated the addition of an extra leap month to the calendar at the end of every three years.  Suffice it to say, that it wasn’t long before Julius Caesar had enough of those sort of time shenanigans and decided that the time was right for a completely new calendar, one that was based solely on the sun. The result of this Julian calendar was that the year was now comprised of 365 ¼ days and would start in January and not in March. (March

A Prayer for Grace and Protection

Angela Carter said, “Comedy is a tragedy that happens to other people.” That truism is wonderfully illustrated by the story of Aeschylus (525-456 BC). Aeschylus was a famous Greek playwright who wrote more than 70 plays, but tragically, only 7 have survived. He is known in dramatic circles as the “father of tragedy.” But tragically, that is not why I remember him. I remember him because he died a tragic death that may also be perceived as rather funny. Pliny the Elder was also a famous author (although he was Roman and not Greek).  Pliny wrote an encyclopedia-like work of scientific discoveries that we now know as pure bunk, but contained such famous quotes as “Fortune favors the brave,” and “The only certainty is that nothing is certain,” and “Home is where the heart is.” It also contained the sad tale of the death of Aeschylus.  The tale recounts how

A Prayer for Grace

Imagine two Christian “superstars” meeting for the first time (they were “superstars” in their day and, for many, they still retain that title even today—but of course, they would never accept that title to describe themselves). I am talking about the American evangelist, DL Moody (1837-1899), and the great British preacher, Charles Spurgeon (1834-1892).  What would their first meeting look like? Now, both Moody and Spurgeon had admired each other from across the pond for decades. Moody, in fact, considered Spurgeon a type of mentor when it came to preaching. Every week, Spurgeon’s Sunday sermon was printed in the newspaper; and Moody studied each issue carefully. But, although they corresponded with each other, they never had the opportunity to meet. But Moody wanted to change that (one of the items on his bucket list was to go to the Metropolitan Tabernacle and hear Spurgeon preach).  And so, one day, he

A Prayer of Self-Dedication

Dedication, some people have it; some don’t. Olympic athletes are often lauded for their extreme dedication to their sports. The amount of time, physical endurance, and mental toughness required to prepare oneself to compete for a medal on a global stage is staggering. But pick your athlete, any athlete; when it comes to giving it their all for Olympic glory, they don’t hold a candle compared to Arrhichion of Phigalia.  Arrhichion was the champion of the Pankration event in the 564 BC Olympic games. The Pankration was similar to our MMA, being a combination of boxing, wrestling, kicking, joint-locks, and lots of pain infliction. To make things even more exciting, there was no referee to end a bout when someone was being beaten to a pulp. No sir! The end of the fight only came when one of the contestants said, “Theios!” (that’s “uncle” in Greek) and gave up. In

A Prayer of Thanks

Here’s the life principle: “Always be yourself, unless you can be Batman. Then, always be Batman.” Why? Because Batman is great. Now, it has been suggested that Batman’s greatness can be summarized in one of the following bat quotes: “I have one power. I never give up.” “All men have limits. They learn what they are and learn not to exceed them. I ignore mine.” “I’m whatever Gotham needs me to be.” “It’s not who I am underneath, but what I do that defines me.” But none of those quotes really isolate what makes Batman truly great. Here’s THE bat quote that we should focus on when discussing what makes Batman extraordinary. The Caped Crusader said: “The true crimefighter always carries everything he needs in his utility belt.” In this series, I am suggesting that you put ten prayers in your utility belt so that no matter what you encounter in

Words Matter

There’s an old joke about three prisoners preparing to face a firing squad. In a flash, the first prisoner comes up with a plan for escape. The sergeant takes him and stands him against the wall and then returns to the firing squad. He begins his countdown, “Ready, aim. . . .” At this point, the first prisoner screams out, “Earthquake! Earthquake!” The firing squad immediately drop their rifles and run off to find shelter. In the chaos, the prisoner escapes. The sergeant is not pleased.  He brings the second prisoner before the firing squad. He beings his countdown, “Ready, aim. . . .” At this point, the second prisoner screams out, “Flood! Flood! Run for your lives.” The firing squad immediately drop their rifles and run for higher ground. During the chaos, the prisoner escapes. The sergeant is really mad now. He brings the third prisoner to the firing

Lengthening Lent

There are a lot of weird words out there; and apparently, I don’t know how to define them. How about you? Take your shot at defining these six words: Borborygmus Gobemouche Entomophagy Hoddy-noddy Rawky Sternutator See how you did: Borborygmus: This is a rumbling or gurgling noise in the intestines (Who knew it had a name and that the name was worse than the actual sound?) Gobemouche: A gullible or credulous listener (All it would take is to be called a gobemouche once, and I would never be a gullible or credulous listener again!) Entomophagy: The eating of insects, especially by people (I bet entomophagy causes borborygmus!) Hoddy-noddy: A foolish person (not to be confused with hotsy-totsy or hoity-toity!) Rawky: Foggy, damp and cold (It sounds awful because it is!) Sternutator: Something that causes sneezing (I think the Sternutator was in the last Terminator movie I saw). Here’s what brought

So, You’re Going to Neptune?

Congratulations, you’ve volunteered to join the first-ever exploration of Neptune. All your friends (both of them) think you are insane, and they may be right. After all, it takes 12 years even to get to Neptune and that is if you don’t get lost and have to stop for directions along the way! In any case, you’re going. NASA is very excited, but concerned about space boredom (there is only one other passenger). They have graciously allowed you to take ten books (your Kindle is nearly filled with books on how to survive if you crash into an asteroid). So, here’s my question: what ten books would you bring? (That’s right, this blog has suddenly become an “ice breaker” question.) NASA is also allowing you to bring ten small items from home. What ten items would you bring? They are also allowing you to bring ten prayers with you. What

Not Your Typical Sword Drill

When I was a kid, we had Sword Drills. I’m guessing some of you did, too.  While seated, you put one hand on the front cover of your Bible and one hand on the back. Someone called out a Bible reference (for example, John 3:16) and then shouted, “Go!” And the race was on! To win, all you had to do is find the verse, stand up, read it and then give a snide, self-righteous look at the other kids who, for some reason, opened to Obadiah and got majorly lost in the minor prophets. So, let’s have a Sword Drill. Get a Bible and get ready. In just a second, I’ll give you three references. When I say, “Go,” you must find the first one, read it; move on to the second, read it; and then go to the third, read it and say, “Done.” If you can do

Three Questions Revisited

When I played soccer in my university days (go ahead, be impressed), the referees would often penalize guilty players with a yellow card (as far as I can remember, I never received a yellow card; but as parents, both Jo and I were once warned and then kicked out of a hockey game in which our son was playing!). Here’s the point: Some of you have waved a metaphorical yellow card in my face recently. You have said it was unfair, unjust and unfathomable that I would ask three difficult, but engaging questions, but never give any hint of answers. To you I say, it was a perfectly legitimate teaching technique, so just keep that yellow card in your pocket!  But I am willing to concede that maybe it would be good to discuss these questions further. So, let’s talk about it.  The three questions I am talking about were

Truth Is Stranger Than Fiction, Library Edition

Fact: There are libraries in the world today that have security bats living inside of them. That’s right, bats! Why? Because bats eat book-damaging bugs. During the day, these bats sleep; but at night, they become an army of vengeance upon these pesky insects.  The only downside is the clean-up in the morning (but in my opinion, no upside can make up for that downside). Fact: The oldest library in the world dates from the 7th century BC. It was established in Ninevah (now modern-day Iraq) by Ashurbanipal, King of Assyria (668–c.630 BC), and housed over 30,000 cuneiform tablets.  Not a fact: The oldest librarian in the world dates from 7 to 9 pm on weekends. Fact: Overdue books bring in big bucks.  In 2016, the San Jose Public Library reported collecting $6.8 million in delinquent fees. Apparently, 39% of its members were guilty of not returning their books on

How They Did It

Okay, before we go any farther, we all need to practice our detective voice. Here are three lines from the great movie/book, The Maltese Falcon. Once you can say each one of these lines with the proper snarl, then you are ready to read the rest of the post. We will start off with an easy one. Sam Spade says to Effie, his secretary: “You’re a good man, sister.”  Sam Spade says to the tough guy, Joel Cairo (played by Peter Lorre): “When you’re slapped, you’ll take it and like it.” And last, as the police are carting away the bad guys, the chief detective asks Spade what that black statue of a falcon is and Spade sums it all up with this great line: “The stuff that dreams are made of.” Okay, having now graduated from detective school, we are ready for today’s mystery. We walk into a room,

Mark’s Gospel Is for Failures

I read a story this week about a guy who, when he was quite young, received some life-changing wisdom from his father. His father said, “Knowledge is power,” and then attributed those words to Francis Bacon. But the boy heard his father saying, “Knowledge is power. France is bacon.” For years afterwards, he struggled to figure out what the expression, “France is bacon,” meant and how those two sentences were connected. In high school, he once asked his teacher what this quote meant; and she went on and on for ten minutes explaining how knowledge was power, but stopped short of clarifying how France is bacon. Frustrated with her avoiding his true question, he cut to the chase, threw up his hands, and asked, “France is Bacon?” And she said, “Yes. Francis Bacon.” For the next decade, whenever someone said the famous line, “Knowledge is power,” he would always “finish”

Faster than You Can Cook Asparagus

Apparently, I know more Latin than I think. At least that’s what a website told me (“Mental Floss”). It listed off a bunch of English words and said they all were all Latin loanwords: words like memo, alibi, agenda, veto, alias, versus, etc. (i.e., all very common and very popular “English” words that I know and use often). And yes, “i.e.” and “etc.” are also Latin loanwords (or are they loan abbreviations?). And the following phrases are also all Latin (that’s right, in this post we are broadcasting “all Latin, all the time”): phrases like alma mater ("nourishing mother"), bona fide (“in good faith”), alter ego (“other self”) and vice versa (“position turned”). But not all is bright in Latin land. We also have a very sad Latin expression, barba non facit philosophum ("a beard does not make a philosopher”), which is very upsetting because I really want my beard to make it so! Here’s Point 1: A lot of people feel that

The Difference that Matthew Makes, Part 2

Let me give you some advice. It’s even good advice. First, from Henry David Thoreau: “Read the best books first, or you may not have a chance to read them at all.” That’s good advice. And now, from Fran Lebowitz: “Think before you speak. Read before you think.” Now, that is better advice! And third, from Saint Thomas Aquinas (the philosopher, not the high school): “Beware of the person of one book.” Now, that is the best advice yet! No wonder they name high schools after him! Ask anyone and they will tell you, it would be so much easier if we only had ONE gospel (“one gospel to rule them all; one gospel to combine them”). Why? Because four gospels give us headaches. Case in point, the cleansing of the temple. In Matthew, Mark and Luke, Jesus cleanses the temple on the Monday of Holy Week. On Friday of

The Difference that Matthew Makes

There was that old, old commercial for Life cereal. Two boys are staring at this bowl of unknown slop. One pushes it in front of the other. He pushes it back. Neither one wants to try it because they were told it was good for them, and they know that any cereal that is good for you tastes horrible. Finally, one of the kids comes up with a sure-fired test to find out how bad the cereal tastes. They slide the bowl over to Mikey who hates everything but, apparently, will try anything. Mikey digs in. The boys are ready for him to spew it out of his mouth in disgust but, instead, he scoops up a second spoonful! “He likes it! Mikey likes it!” Who knew tasting soggy cereal could be so rewarding! Here’s my confession (as if you didn’t know already): I love this stuff. I love thinking

Load More Posts
Go to Top